Complex civil rights leader and organizer Bayard Rustin has died at age 77. Rustin was a mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr. and to the civil rights movement.
Bayard Rustin, Civil Rights Leader
GARRICK UTLEY, anchor:
Bayard Rustin, a leading figure in the civil rights movement, is dead following surgery for a ruptured appendix. He was 77. A Quaker, Rustin fought fiercely for racial equality, and then with equal tenacity against black studies, solo courses and other separatist programs that he felt would undermine academic progress for blacks. NBC’s Douglas Kiker reports tonight on this complex man.
DOUGLAS KIKER reporting:
Not active in recent years he was unknown to many younger people, but Bayard Rustin was one of the giant figures in this nation’s civil rights movement. Jailed, beaten, prosecuted, he devoted his entire adult life to it as an activist, a thinker and as an organizer.
BAYARD RUSTIN: And I think the black leadership is shifting from the old civil rights leadership to new political leadership.
KIKER: 1961: the freedom rides to integrate interstate travel. 1965: the march on Selma Alabama, 1968: the Memphis garbage collectors strike. 1968: resurrection city, an unemployment rally in Washington. The 1963 March on Washington, it is remember as Martin Luther King’s greatest moment, but Bayard Rustin, both a top aid and a mentor to Dr. King, organized the march.
RALPH ABERNATHY: Martin Luther King would not have been the person that he was without the aid, the tutorage of Bayard Rustin.
KIKER: Rustin was a controversial complex man, he was a perfectionist, he affected a toney accent; he was a homosexual. A member of the young communist league in the 1930s, a contentious objector during World War II, a neo conservative in the 1980s who opposed racial quota systems. He was all of the above and more.
VERNON JORDAN: When we thirsted for ideas he gave us water, and when we were hungry for tactics he fed us, when we were naked for inspiration and hope Bayard clothed us.
KIKER: Douglas Kiker, NBC News, Washington.
Synopsis: Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. King, both a Baptist minister and civil-rights activist, had a seismic impact on race relations in the United States, beginning in the mid-1950s. Among many efforts, King headed the SCLC.
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